Saturday, September 24, 2016

Moral Imagination

In his speech to the UN, President Obama suggested that he sensed a rise in xenophobia, racism and intolerance in many places in the world.  He's not the only one to say that.  It's impossible not to see it in America, and with the recent attacks on Polish workers, it's clearly active in the UK, which suggests it was a stronger factor in the Brexit referendum than many will admit.  A bad thought, considering the stakes of November in the US.

But President Obama also spoke of a source of hope, in young people around the world.  It is true that among Millennials and younger, there seems much more acceptance of difference.  Here is what President Obama said, with an interesting interpretation as to why this is so:

"Sitting in a prison cell, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that, “Human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God.” And during the course of these eight years, as I've traveled to many of your nations, I have seen that spirit in our young people, who are more educated and more tolerant, and more inclusive and more diverse, and more creative than our generation; who are more empathetic and compassionate towards their fellow human beings than previous generations. And, yes, some of that comes with the idealism of youth. But it also comes with young people’s access to information about other peoples and places -- an understanding unique in human history that their future is bound with the fates of other human beings on the other side of the world.

I think of the thousands of health care workers from around the world who volunteered to fight Ebola. I remember the young entrepreneurs I met who are now starting new businesses in Cuba, the parliamentarians who used to be just a few years ago political prisoners in Myanmar. I think of the girls who have braved taunts or violence just to go to school in Afghanistan, and the university students who started programs online to reject the extremism of organizations like ISIL. I draw strength from the young Americans -- entrepreneurs, activists, soldiers, new citizens -- who are remaking our nation once again, who are unconstrained by old habits and old conventions, and unencumbered by what is, but are instead ready to seize what ought to be."

Other generations have been called idealistic--mine for example.  But I always knew we were a minority--it was just a really big generation, so there seemed like a lot of idealists and activists.  And then the demands of career and family absorb the middle decades, ideas are re-examined or just change.  Now we're typecast as reactionaries, which is no more true that the original stereotype.

But change requires adjustment, including an expansion of "moral imagination"
 as President Obama says in his final paragraphs:

"My own family is a made up of the flesh and blood and traditions and cultures and faiths from a lot of different parts of the world -- just as America has been built by immigrants from every shore. And in my own life, in this country, and as President, I have learned that our identities do not have to be defined by putting someone else down, but can be enhanced by lifting somebody else up. They don’t have to be defined in opposition to others, but rather by a belief in liberty and equality and justice and fairness.

And the embrace of these principles as universal doesn't weaken my particular pride, my particular love for America -- it strengthens it. My belief that these ideals apply everywhere doesn’t lessen my commitment to help those who look like me, or pray as I do, or pledge allegiance to my flag. But my faith in those principles does force me to expand my moral imagination and to recognize that I can best serve my own people, I can best look after my own daughters, by making sure that my actions seek what is right for all people and all children, and your daughters and your sons."

The Donald Chronicles: Debate Prep and Other Craziness

With the background of a suspicious amount of violence across the country and (fomented by Russia and its allies) in Syria, the Campaign from Crazy goes on, tumbling America ever farther down the rabbit hole towards Hitlerdom.

It turns out that while too nearly half of Americans surveyed are telling pollsters they'll vote for Trump,  these pollsters say that half also agree that if he is elected they expect Trump to use nuclear weapons on somebody.  More than half believe Trump will track Muslims and 65% believe there will be race riots.

They tell other pollsters that he's racist (60%) and without compassion (75%.)  But of course, that's okay with some of them.  Nuke 'em gets some votes, too.  Why not?  Most people alive now don't have a clue what that means.

What's driving political analysts batty is that this pathological liar scores a full ten points higher than Hillary on honesty.  It may be a category error--people might think he's sincere--you know, a sincere liar-- but honest?  Is it because the media keeps harping on the emails?  Could it be because people "just don't trust women"?

Speaking of women, the male/female dynamic of the first presidential debate looms large.  Some behavioristically inclined observers suggest that all Trump has to do to win is physically signal dominance, while in a fascinating report, Anna Walters in the WPost details how--beginning in high school and college--women debaters are judged by different (and sexist) standards.

But Trump isn't out of the woods on this--if he is perceived as a bully, it may not be to his benefit. And if moderator Lester Holt condescends to Clinton as Matt Lauer did, I don't think even the studio audience will let it go by.

People keep repeating that Trump benefits from very low expectations, and as so much in the media, repetition turns to "truth."  Jonathan Chiat has a funny column on Trump's debate "prep"--maybe funny isn't the word.

Anyway, the hype and the unsolicited advice (Hillary should be aggressive, Hillary should let Trump defeat himself) will soon be over, and what's shaping up to be the Big Show will start with the actual debate on Monday, but of course, won't hardly end there.

Meanwhile today in Siberian Candidate news: "U.S. intelligence officials are examining the relationship between Carter Page, an informal foreign policy advisor for the Donald Trump campaign, and Russian officials close to Vladimir Putin -- including a Kremlin official believed to be involved in Russian attempts to influence U.S. elections, Michael Isikoff reported Friday for Yahoo News."

Yahoo itself made news with the biggest data breach in history--fomented by the Russians, it seems. There's more stolen information dutifully being published by the media.  This stuff is getting scary.

As for the media, the WPost argues convincingly that CNN is paying a paid operative of the Trump campaign to analyze Trump, even though he is getting money from Trump as long as he keeps his agreement not to say anything bad about him.  How weird is that?  Fox gets that kind of stuff for free.

On the other hand, going into the first debate Hillary is ahead in two new national polls, by 7 points in one, by 6 points in the other.  In 2012 President Obama won easily, by just under 4 points in the popular vote.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Scaling Up

In his WPost column, E.J. Dionne said President Obama's address to the UN on Tuesday "may prove to be one of the most important of his presidency."  Dionne summarized the main themes of the global tension between "democracy,openness and religious tolerance" versus "tribalism, prejudice and authoritarianism."

Dionne related these themes to the upcoming US election and concluded "I know it asks a great deal of my conservative friends not only to oppose Trump but also to support Clinton. But she is the only person standing between us and a United States that abandons our shared commitment to the ideals of inclusion, toleration and, yes, democracy itself."

Application to the US election is an obvious subtext, but I don't agree with some coverage that made the address out to be a covert campaign speech.  In context it applies in various ways to many places in the world, and President Obama referenced some of those places.  It is important to understand that this is a global issue, and while it often is a set of national or regional fights, it has global implications.  That's the scope of this vision.

It is an integrated vision.  To my mind it has some missing pieces, but the vision as a whole is compelling and many aspects ring true.  However, I want to emphasize one important element here--the climate crisis.

Before addressing this directly, President Obama was talking about the relationship of rich and poor nations:

"And just as we benefit by combating inequality within our countries, I believe advanced economies still need to do more to close the gap between rich and poor nations around the globe. This is difficult politically. It's difficult to spend on foreign assistance. But I do not believe this is charity. For the small fraction of what we spent at war in Iraq we could support institutions so that fragile states don’t collapse in the first place, and invest in emerging economies that become markets for our goods. It's not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do."

And only then, to climate:

And that’s why we need to follow through on our efforts to combat climate change. If we don't act boldly, the bill that could come due will be mass migrations, and cities submerged and nations displaced, and food supplies decimated, and conflicts born of despair. The Paris Agreement gives us a framework to act, but only if we scale up our ambition. And there must be a sense of urgency about bringing the agreement into force, and helping poorer countries leapfrog destructive forms of energy.

So, for the wealthiest countries, a Green Climate Fund should only be the beginning. We need to invest in research and provide market incentives to develop new technologies, and then make these technologies accessible and affordable for poorer countries. And only then can we continue lifting all people up from poverty without condemning our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair."

The Donald Chronicles: The Gore-ing of Hillary

Would you get a mortgage from this man?
(Maybe that's why the business failed.)
Everybody wants to know what outrageous statement or incredible lie Trump has come up with today, and most days there's plenty.  He feeds the beast.

Hillary Clinton also happens to be running for President, and when the media remembers her, they often trot out the emails, or something else negative.

Sound paranoid?  Thomas Patterson in the LA Times finds that since the conventions the media has been fixated on the emails, accounting for 11% of Clinton news, and it was over 90% negative. Coverage of her character and personal life also more than 90% negative.  Her policy proposals are hardly ever covered--unless Trump criticizes them, and then only his critique makes the news.

This is just an update.  In June Jeff Stein (Hi Jeff) wrote: Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a report this week that says the top news outlets hammered Clinton in 2015 far more than any other presidential candidate. According to the report, eight of America’s most influential news outlets wrote coverage "negative in tone" about Clinton 84 percent of the time — compared to just 43 percent for Donald Trump, and 17 percent for Bernie Sanders."

(It should be noted that Thomas Patterson also conducted this study.)

I don't follow enough of mainstream media to sense if this is broadly true, but in my small sampling it comports, especially about the emails.  This is pretty much what the media did to Al Gore in 2000.  It seized on a story (true or not) that created a simple image, and it stuck with that image.  With Hillary it's the emails.  It's much easier to make too much of one thing--and create a simple image--than it is to follow the blizzard of lies and outrages perpetrated by Trump.

One of these days that could change--Trump could do or say something so compellingly crazy in such a photogenic way (say, at a debate) that he will finally get that simple image.  But it's not certain it will happen, and it's not very comforting to think this is what we have to depend on.

Revisiting the birther issue (which he says Trump has un-recanted), Josh Marshall puts his finger on the Trump personae:

"As I noted last week with video of the 2011 interview we did with Trump, at his most candid moments Trump has been open about the roots of his birtherism: it sells. He saw early that conservative Republicans had a rabid appetite for it and he meant to feed it. Whether the whole idea was true or not, I suspect never really entered into Trump's calculus. It's not a salesman or a con man's way of thinking. But with Trump, once Trump says it, it's absolutely true and never won't be."

Campaign news of the day: NBC/Wall St. Journal poll has Hillary up 6 points among likely voters in a 4 candidate race, and by 7% in head to head with Trump.  The latest Pew Poll has her up four points, and finds that the strongest reason people are voting for their candidate is that they strongly oppose the other one.

Early voting: The Clinton campaign is out there working it but Trump depends on the RNC. Early votes in North Carolina are reportedly trending Hillary.

In August Trump raised a shitload of money (and spent a nice chunk of it on his own companies) but Hillary raised a bigger shitload. And that's all I have to say about that shit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Better History


In a speech barely covered by US media, and mostly covered badly anyway, President Obama expressed in straightforward language a clear and nuanced vision for the progress of civilization, in his final address to the United Nations General Assembly as President of the United States.

He was clear about the challenges faced now and in the future.  He was clear about the principles he believes in, and that he asserts have worked to make the world better.  He emphasized progress made, because the knowledge that progress can be made provides confidence that fuels future efforts.  Those efforts include constant reevaluation.  He outlined "course corrections."

The timeframe he chose was the past quarter century, after the Cold War's end.  He lauded US and UN efforts, and the impact of global business and new technology in, for example, reducing dire poverty from afflicting 40% of the world's population to less than 10% now. He makes powerful and factually based arguments for the benefits of the global economy.

But he always returned to what needs to be corrected, such as inequaltiy, and what was done wrong to foster this progress, such as repressing unions and hobbling other institutional checks on greed. "A world in which one percent of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99 percent will never be stable."

He seeks a balance between various forms of identity and autonomy (ethnic, racial, national, religious) and cooperation, with the full recognition of our common humanity.

Full transcript here, and video here.  A summary equal to the speech's contents would be too lengthy here, and a series of soundbite quotes would be as pointless and deceptive as the few news stories about it.  I hope to quote some chunks of it in future days, however.

This speech both elucidates a vision President Obama has been describing in different ways since his first campaign, and does so with a subtlety, economy and yet a panorama that seems the result of observation, dialogue, discussion and insight through the eight years of his presidency.  It is an important address, and should be an important source for the next President, who would therefore start out with this level of understanding.

In June President Obama addressed the Canadian parliament, where members chanted "four more years!"  Though some in the world will be glad to see him go--Putin, ISIL come to mind--many world leaders would echo the Canadian call.  We have not yet seen the full panic that would ensue if Trump were even close to being elected.

President Obama came onto the world stage with his basic vision and values, with knowledge and intelligence.  He has now acquired and synthesized wisdom, and that's what was on display at the UN.

That wisdom involves the acquired precise knowledge joined to a richer version of the vision.  He ended his UN address acknowledging that there is a reading of history that emphasizes greed, suspicion and the darkness within the human soul. "Time and again, human beings have believed that they finally arrived at a period of enlightenment only to repeat, then, cycles of conflict and suffering. Perhaps that's our fate."

But there have been two checks against virulence: institutional and individual.  Unions, regulations, an independent judiciary, public utilities and government as a whole, imperfect institutions that nevertheless have kept the worst excesses in check and saved capitalism from itself.  And in the end, the individual decision, that is the right and responsibility of every one of us.Their operation in the world can lead to a different historical emphasis, a different story.

"Each of us as leaders, each nation can choose to reject those who appeal to our worst impulses and embrace those who appeal to our best. For we have shown that we can choose a better history."

The Donald Chronicles: Scared Straight

Media attention starts turning to the first presidential debate on Monday, as it confronts the knowledge that one of the two candidates is the most profoundly ignorant, deeply racist, psychologically infantile and irredeemably dishonest person to ever stand on such a stage.

The latest revelation of Trump's business chicanery comes from the Washington Post report on the money he took from his charitable trust to deal with law suits against his businesses.  This and your Trump campaign outrages for Tuesday are summed up in this Guardian piece.

Two pieces caught my eye that struggle with characterizing just how profound is Trump's disregard for the truth and his pathological lying.  Richard Cohen in the Washington Post goes into some detail in an increasingly meaningful historical comparison:  he compares Trump to Hitler.

"I realize that the name Hitler has the distractive quality of pornography and so I cite it only with reluctance. Hitler, however, was not a fictional creation but a real man who was legally chosen to be Germany’s chancellor, and while Trump is neither an anti-Semite nor does he have designs on neighboring countries, he is Hitlerian in his thinking. He thinks the truth is what he says it is."

It is the reality of Hitler as well as the aptness of the comparison that Cohen emphasizes:

Germany was not some weird place. At the advent of the Hitler era, it was a democracy, an advanced nation, culturally rich and scientifically advanced. It had a unique history — its defeat in World War I, the hyperinflation of the 1920s — so it cannot easily be likened to the contemporary United States. But it was not all that different, either. In 1933, it chose a sociopathic liar as its leader. If the polls are to be believed, we may do the same."

For Roger Simon at Politico--as for other media examples he cites--Trump's attempted pirouette on his racist birther crusade was the bridge too far:

"That Trump lies on a regular and dismal basis is no longer a question. It is a fact.  For months and months, the national press corps has been tiptoeing around this. But now it has stopped clutching its pearls and has decided to call the truth the truth and a falsehood a falsehood."

For those who prefer their Trump birther analysis with a comedic flair, there's the choice of Colbert or Seth Myers.  There may be more choices to come.      

Is Trump profiting politically by his most recent lies?  Maybe.  But there are indications, Josh Marshall observes, that Clinton's fall in the polls is being reversed.  He cites especially Florida and PA polls that show a Clinton rebound in the past several days.

And then an NBC national tracking poll of likely voters showed a distinct Clinton lead.  The story notes that early and absentee voting is beginning in some states.

Veteran political observer Jeff Greenfield suggests that the poll scare of September may redound to Hillary's benefit by re-motivating voters to make sure the catastrophe of Trump doesn't happen, by taking whatever pains are necessary to really really vote.

Other good news for Hillary: the Obamas are coming!  According to Bloomberg: Barack Obama is about to launch a presidential campaign blitz for Hillary Clinton unprecedented in the modern era, pledging a dramatic commitment of time and resources to a contest he now unabashedly frames as a referendum on his personal and political prestige.

Both President and Michelle Obama will make TV and radio ads in addition to speeches and interviews.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Your Moment of Swing: The King



Benny Goodman was called the King of Swing.  He had a long career as a clarinetist, beginning as a session musician in the 1920s, moving through the big band era in the 30s and 40s, getting into small combo jazz in the late 40s and 50s, appearing in films and on TV, and continuing to perform through the 70s right up to the year of his death in 1986.

But it was his 1930s band that gets the credit for inaugurating the Swing Era.  His bands are also notable for later stars and band leaders who performed in them, including Glenn Miller and Harry James. (He's also credited as a leader in racially integrating his ensembles.) Benny Goodman famously crossed over into classical music and helped begin the blurring of the lines between modern classical and jazz.

But this tune is Swing.  Called "Minnie's In the Money," it's from the 1943 Busby Berkeley film, The Gang's All Here.  It's a great energetic film treatment of a lesser known song with a lot of swing--this clip is lots of fun.

  It's a wartime tune for a wartime movie, which is otherwise as surreal and excessive as Berkeley often was.  It's also unusual in being filmed in Technicolor--the  Swing Era is usually black and white.  The full movie--starring Carmen Miranda-- is also on YouTube.  It's actually of better visual quality than this clip--of those available on YouTube, there was one with slightly better resolution but glitches in the sound.  This one's a bit fuzzy but the music comes across great.

The lyrics to the song are an interesting reflection of the times--although Minnie is praised for doing war work in a factory, she's being well-paid for it--a reflection of the war economy, a change from the Depression and a change for women.

The music though is by Harry Warren, who is described this way by Wilfrid Sheed :"By silent consensus, the king of this army of unknown soldiers, the Hollywood incognitos, was Harry Warren, who had more songs on the Hit Parade than Berlin himself and who would win the contest hands down if enough people have heard of him."

I was surprised to see how many tunes I remember that it turns out Harry Warren wrote--from pop classics I used to hear on 50s variety shows like "Jeepers Creepers" and "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby" to "That's Amore"(Warren's birth name was Salvatore Antonio Guaragna) and a lot of songs for the 1950s Martin & Lewis movies I saw, to the theme for the TV western "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp."

His most important collaboration was with Busby Berkeley in the 30s and 40s.  He wrote the Berkeley classics "Lullaby of Broadway" and "We're in the Money" and many others.  But his contribution to swing was largely his work for Glenn Miller, including the swing classics this series began with, "I've Got A Gal in Kalamazoo" and "Chattanooga Cho-Cho."

And then there's this one. The Berkeley camera works for the most part to sell the swing.  And Benny Goodman sings!  Enjoy.

Armed with the Numbers

So why didn't we know this?  All this time we've been beating our breasts and beating our brains out about this country which seemed to have become an armed camp, and where the silent majority was fiercely and at times only committed to their God and Constitution-promised right to cling to their guns.

I personally kept wondering in posts (with this label, you can look them up) why this image of America didn't comport with people I knew, beginning in western Pennsylvania.

Well, it turns out there is a reason it didn't.  Because the image isn't true.

The Washington Post did a story on the latest research on gun ownership. So what tiny percentage of Americans have no guns at all?

78%.  Not one gun.

Who does own the guns?  3% own half of them.  The other 19% together own the other half.  That's 22% who say they own a firearm.  Which I imagine includes the folks who own only hunting rifles that some years for a portion of their lives they unpack for the several weeks of hunting seasons.

Here's another finding: while the number of guns in America has "skyrocketed," the number of gun owners has declined.

Yes, there is at least one gun for every adult American out there.  It's just that a few people have most of them.

But the survey also found that most of the 22% had handguns for "protection."  This is a change from the 1990s, they say, when most respondents said they had firearms for hunting.

This doesn't make gun violence less dangerous. 22% or even 3% are still a lot of people, with an awful lot of guns.  But it does put a different perspective on the political pressure to allow guns in every conceivable public place and circumstance, including schools, public meetings and bars.

Sure, we knew that political pressure is funded by gun manufacturers through their trade organization, the NRA.  But the NRA turns out to be the Wizard of Oz.  There isn't a popular will backing it up.  It's not even the 50/50 "polarization."

So the mystery deepens--why is this issue so politically powerful, so that the most basic and common sense rules and inhibitions can't pass into law, so that localities that want to enact laws governing guns that make sense for their particular circumstances get overridden by state laws that prohibit this right?

 So that a dubious interpretation of the second amendment trumps the freedom to assemble peaceably, the freedom of speech and of worship, and whatever freedom you call it that means children can go to school with less prospect of being slaughtered by madmen of this 3%?  Or now in Texas universities by crazed or accident-prone classmates?  Just what is that about?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Millennial Update: Nowhere To Hide

Paul Krugman addressed the third party boomlet among Millennials in his column today:

Does it make sense to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president? Sure, as long as you believe two things. First, you have to believe that it makes no difference at all whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump moves into the White House — because one of them will. Second, you have to believe that America will be better off in the long run if we eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare — which is what the Libertarian platform calls for.

But do 29 percent of Americans between 18 and 34 believe these things? I doubt it. Yet that, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, is the share of millennial voters who say that they would vote for Mr. Johnson if the election took place now. And the preponderance of young Americans who say they’ll back Mr. Johnson or Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, appear to be citizens who would support Mrs. Clinton in a two-way race; including the minor party candidates cuts her margin among young voters from 21 points to just 5.

So I’d like to make a plea to young Americans: your vote matters, so please take it seriously."

After making his arguments, Krugman concludes:

Remember, George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, but somehow ended up in the White House anyway in part thanks to the Nader vote — and nonetheless proceeded to govern as if he had won a landslide. Can you really imagine a triumphant Mr. Trump showing restraint out of respect for all those libertarian votes?

Your vote matters, and you should act accordingly — which means thinking seriously about what you want to see happen to America."

Hillary made her pitch to college students in Philadelphia.  She urged them not to sit the election out which plays into Trump's hands.  She appealed particular to the serious and the geeky by emphasizing her attention to detail in policy matters.  She promised to make sure the voices of Millennials are heard regularly on policy decisions in her White House.  She also posted on a blog for Millennials that emphasized the social justice causes she began fighting for in her youth, and aspects of her life that motivated her.  Here's Eric Levitz report.

A Politico report on a Bernie speech in Ohio suggests that in this age of various echo chambers of false information, some Millennials as well as others are unreachable.  Many Bernie supporters are heeding his call to vote for Hillary, but others who were attracted to his campaign are not.

I often think of Jung's theory of  the four functions, and how dangerous each of our inferior function is--because it represents our least competence though we may feel absolutely sure of it.  Politics is the inferior function for many people.  They know little about it but their strong feelings convince them otherwise.  They often see things that conventional wisdom obscures, but they also often see things that aren't there, and their analysis is not complex enough.  It's often mostly emotion and that gets exhausting.  So they disengage, and dig in.  It happens all along the political spectrum--if there is a political spectrum anymore.

On the other hand, maybe Bernie just isn't making an effective argument--as Ed Kilgore argues in his piece Can Bernie Undo the Damage He's Done to Clinton?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Millennials, 2000 and the Climate Crisis

I don't pretend to understand Millennials.  I don't even know why they are called Millennials since most of them were born in the 20th century.  But I do remember the millennial year of 2000.

According to various recent articles, Millennials don't have sex, and they don't like breakfast cereal because it involves too much clean-up.   Other items are more explicable in this economy--they typically don't own a home, half aren't married, a lot live in their parents' home and they have a lot of pets.  And a lot of them think this society and its political system are really screwed up.

I may not understand Millennials altogether but I do know what it's like to be young and notice news stories about millions of suffering refugees next to articles about the latest high fashion excess.  I come from the Generation Gap generation and I remember when society didn't understand us and was actively hostile, as well as the anger and the change in worldview when aspects of society having to do with wealth and power, race and class, the facade and the reality that the conventional wisdom ignores were revealed to me.

Right now Millennials are big news because Democratic political pros who've been analyzing recent presidential preference polls have concluded that Trump is not rising, it's Hillary who is falling and it's primarily because she's losing support from Millennials.

One theory is that Millennials who see the hypocrisy and corruption in the political establishment and pinned their hopes on Bernie may understand that Trump is catastrophe but feel Hillary isn't much better--but were prepared to vote for her if necessary.  When she was getting double digit leads in the polls it may have seemed it wasn't necessary anymore, she was going to win, so they could vote for a third party candidate who seemed closer to their views, or simply as a protest against establishment politicians.

Now the polls have tightened and a concerted effort is beginning to convince them that their votes are needed, that their future hangs in the balance.  Bernie is out campaigning and telling audiences that "this is not the time for a protest vote." Elizabeth Warren is out there now too, making the same case in Ohio.

  A lot of Millennials voted for Obama (and are still with him) and so both the President and First Lady are making the case for Hillary, and will be through to November.  

There's even talk of bringing Al Gore onto the stage--Exhibit A in what can happen when a third party protest vote leads to tragedy.  (And G.W. Bush's presidency is a tragedy we're still living.)

The New Yorker notes about the Dem VP candidate: Tim Kaine, America's Dad, Makes His Pitch to Millennials.  Now Hillary herself is set to make a direct appeal to Millenials tomorrow.

Some of the Millennial disenchantment has substance, but the 2000 election should have provided an object lesson in strategic voting.  As Kim Stanley Robinson, supporter of a post capitalist economy, used to say back before Bernie, Vote for Elizabeth Warren in the primary and Hillary in the general.

And in general it's worth considering this perspective.  Yes, there's a lot wrong--and that's the point really--a lot.  If Hillary Clinton got everything done she wants to get done, there would still be a lot.  But a lot of things would be better than they are now. That's as important to say as that things would be way way worse with Trump.

The theory that big positive change will more likely happen if things get way worse has not proven to be true in America, at least not in this century.  Big change is more likely to happen as a result of incremental change for the better.  The kind of change many Millennials crave is not supported by anything close to a majority, let alone a consensus.  Look at the virulent opposition, the hate directed at President Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Getting things gradually better, laying the groundwork for big changes, and bringing people along, is at least democratic.  Revolutionaries who want violent conflict must be willing to sacrifice the lives and futures of a lot of people for a very long time.  And without consent of the governed, it's just another form of fascism.

I suppose the biggest thing I don't understand: according to a poll study analyzed in Newsweek:  Nearly seven out of 10 Sanders supporters believe there’s no daylight between Trump and Clinton on the issues they care about...Forty-four percent say there’s no distinction between the two candidates on transitioning away from fossil fuels, and 43 percent say there’s no distinction on protecting air and water."

This is so completely untrue, especially on the climate crisis.  Their stated positions are polar opposites.  But it's more profound than the fact that Trump believes the climate crisis isn't happening and Clinton knows it is.  Clinton is preparing to do a lot about it.   She is already assembling a team of experts and advisors that Politico refers to as Hillary Clinton's Climate Army.

Her plans specifically target energy and fossil fuels. They involve protecting air and water.  Trump's plan is for more fossil fuels, period. Eric Levitz points out: Trump has vowed to “renegotiate” the Paris climate deal, presumably to reflect his belief that the Earth is quite possibly “going to start to cool at some point.”

Levitz writes: There are a lot of insane beliefs that could shape Donald Trump’s four to eight years of governance. But only a few have the potential to trigger literally apocalyptic consequences — the idea that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese is one.

Millennials and generations immediately following are the ones who are going to bear the brunt of climate crisis consequences, and the responsibilities to deal with both the causes and consequences.  They need to get this right.

Al Gore already has counselled that the wrong way to address this future is to vote for a third party candidate.  The actual Millennium, some would argue, was marked by the year 2000 elections.  Yeah, Gore and Bush were well-known politicians from within their party establishments.  They both wore suits and red ties to their debate.  But the idea that there were no important differences on issues or abilities was the most pernicious and damaging idea of, well, the millennium.

Much that President Obama accomplished in addressing the climate crisis in his eight years might well have happened a decade or more earlier, and so we would be making more progress now--maybe crucial progress to the future.  Instead as a result of 2000 we got the war in Iraq, torture and rendition and the Patriot Act, and the Great Recession.  And climate crisis denial in the White House, including censorship and deliberate distortion of scientific findings.

Millennials can only bring tragedy upon themselves and this planet's chances for a future by failing to vote for Hillary.

Update: Eugene Robinson in the WPost: A vote for Trump is a vote for climate catastrophe.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Yes, He Can

Here's the #1 stupid question of 2016: Can this guy get any worse?

Of course he can.  And every day he does.  If America can't see through this, can't understand what the job the President must do means to their lives every day, then this country is too far gone and ain't coming back.

In no particular order, Trump today: "has once again insinuated that Hillary Clinton be assassinated, telling a crowd of supporters in Miami on Friday night that he thinks Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm in order to “see what happens to her.”"

Unveiled a new tax policy worse than the last one, made an about-face on Cuba --too much to deal with!

Played the media into covering live Trump praising his soon to be opened new hotel in Washington and getting free air time for military supporters to praise him--all because he's been pushing the absurd birtherism for years and now has a new tune about it--thanks to him, we now know that Barack Obama was indeed born in the USA, since he punctured the rumor he wasn't which was started by Hillary Clinton.  Yet another complete lie that plays well with the rabid alt.right.

(Meanwhile at the White House: Calling this “the greatest day of my life,” a visibly moved Barack Obama held a news conference on Friday to thank Donald Trump for granting him U.S. citizenship.  Borowitz strikes again.  Complete with photo.)

Perhaps one good came of this--Trump burned the media so badly, they are maybe less likely to fall for his shit next time.  Or not.  Though there are signs of rebellion.

Trump lies and contradicts himself so often and outrageously that anybody with a memory sees it.  And maybe that's the problem.  Not only is Trump profoundly ADD, he's talking to a society that is structurally unable to retain a memory for 24 hours, let alone a few years.  Overwhelmed by saturation coverage of every news event, yesterday must be forgotten just to have enough brain capacity to take in today, or a couple of events from it.

So who remembers 2011 when Trump started questioning President Obama's integrity via the racist birther "questions," when (via WPost): Trump even claimed in 2011 to have sent a team of investigators to Hawaii, to discover whether Obama had really been born there, as he — and all the public records — attested.  “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” Trump said at one point.

There are three--count 'em--three lies there, that is every assertion he was making: 1. That there was any unanswered question about the when and where of Barack Obama's birth (2) That he sent a team of investigators, (3) that this non-existent team found anything, let alone stuff "they cannot believe."

And still, this guy has a path to the presidency in an election to be held in less than two months.

 The media can't get enough of him--good for ratings, good for hatings--but maybe voters are listening to other voices.  Like Hillary, who had yet another nice pivot from her illness story when she addressed an audience of black women: "As the world knows, I was a little under the weather recently," Clinton said. "The good news is my pneumonia finally got some Republicans interested in women's health."

Hillary also got an assist from another Obama--Michelle this time, who spoke from her experience as First Lady: “Because the president can hire the best advisers on earth, but let me tell you something: five advisers will give five different opinions. And the president and the president alone is always the one to make the final call.”

Michelle Obama also said what should be the watchwords of this campaign: "As I’ve said before, the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. The same thing is true of a presidential campaign."

We know who Trump is.  The question is: who are we?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Hail and Farewell

A slew (as in slough of despond) of new polls show Trump benefiting from leaking support for Hillary and gains by third party candidates, especially Gary Johnson.  While not adding to Trump's actual numbers, these movements shove him closer or ahead in both battleground states and generally.  Polling for GOP senatorial and House candidates are likewise looking better for them.

So we got him just where we want him.

No sooner had Politico suggested Five Reasons why Trump has hit his high point and can falter, the Donald lit up #3 ("Trump is getting cocky again") by first trying to turn a church visit into slamming his opponent--which some church folks would consider sacrilegious--and then ridiculing the black female minister who stopped him.  Winning a lot of black votes there.  (Actually motivating black voters to go to the polls thinking about this, among other outrages.)

Trump then refused to say whether he believed President Obama was born in the U.S., followed by a prepared statement issued by his campaign that said that yes, he does believe this--but the statement, said the WPost, was otherwise riddled with falsehoods.

Trump, Jr. made a gaffe--by Chiat's definition--by telling the truth about why the Donald won't release his tax returns.  Because they would be politically damaging.

The Trump House?  Newsweek explains why Trump's international business dealings would cause nightmares of conflict of interest (at best), and Jonathan Chiat explains why Trump's announced "plan" for what he will do with his business interests if elected is somewhere between nonsense and a recipe for prime corruption.

Meanwhile, Hillary took a few days off and came back to the campaign healthy and renewed in purpose.  In what looks like the most brilliant move of her campaign so far, she turned the supposed issue of her illness into a story about the vulnerability of many voters who are one illness away from losing their income:

“I certainly feel lucky — when I am under the weather, I can afford to take a few days off. Millions of Americans can’t. They either go to work sick or they lose a paycheck,” Clinton said. “I have met so many people living on a razor’s edge, one illness away from losing their job.”

Clinton then articulated the principle behind her proposed expansions to social insurance, saying that losing one’s job due to sickness “goes against everything we stand for as Americans, because some things should not come down to luck.”

She'll probably have to repeat this several times though, before most of the media gets it.

Margaret Carlson suggests that things are already turning around for Hillary, partly because of her re-focus derived from her days off, and from the work of her surrogates in the meantime, Bill C. and especially President Obama, who drew some defining distinctions between the candidates in his speech in Philadelphia:

“You’ve got one candidate in this race who’s released decades worth of her tax returns,” Obama said. “The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all.”

He compared Trump’s foundation unfavorably with the Clinton Foundation, which he said “has saved countless lives around the world” through its work."

“The other candidate’s foundation took money other people gave to his charity and then bought a six-foot-tall painting of himself,” Obama said, referring to a Washington Post report on the Trump Foundation’s activities. “He had the taste not to go for the ten-foot version.”


President Obama also scored Trump for his praise of Putin--since then made even more troublesome by the very likely Russian theft of Colin Powell's emails:

Trump has praised Putin for being a “strong leader,” Obama said, after the Russian president “invades smaller countries,” jails his political opponents, controls his country’s media and has driven its economy into recession.

“I have to do business with Russia,” Obama said. “That’s part of foreign policy. But I don’t go around saying that’s my role model.”

Which brings us to a quote that's a few days old but keeps getting better with age:“Trump has somehow combined the sensibility of Joe McCarthy with an ideology that would get him investigated by the McCarthy committee.” By a Republican strategist.

Nobody Blogs Anymore (But Me)

I did a post with this title over at Blue Voice.  Normally, for the convenience of my readers here, I'd reproduce it here.  But I've noticed that the photos are sized better at Blue Voice.  I suspect it's the format, the template.  Anyway, it's just a click away, if you're interested.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

November Surprise Preview: Stolen Goods

The news on Wednesday was clotted with "stories" derived from emails purportedly written by former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell.  Powell calling Trump a disgrace, complaining of Clinton campaign operatives trying to make him the fall guy, etc.  Very juicy.

There's one big problem, though.  These were not emails that Powell released to the world.  They were not released by the State Department or the FBI.  They weren't public documents of any kind.

They were stolen.

Once upon a time, for a couple of centuries actually, if you opened a letter that had been sent through the U.S. Mail, let alone published its contents, you would be guilty of a federal crime.  You would be investigated and prosecuted.  When the Post Office was a federal department--with its own Cabinet Secretary--the mail was taken very, very seriously.

I don't know what laws apply to cybercrime.  But the fact that private correspondence has been published without the knowledge or permission of its author must be illegal.

That doesn't seem to bother anybody, especially those writing about it.  They barely mention that they obtained this information in a different way than, say most of the Clinton emails, which were made public, partly because they were written by a public official.  Lines were crossed there as well, and we can expect them to be crossed again, as emails of purely personal content were and will be released, in violation of privacy, and obtained by theft.

The stories might say these emails were "hacked."  "Hacked" can mean different things.  In this case they were stolen, and that should be the word used to describe them.  Stolen property.

Aren't people who publish them also engaged in a crime?  Good question.  If not, why not?  Another good question.  I believe there are criminal sanctions for receiving stolen goods, especially knowing they were stolen.

And we all know these were stolen.

Nor are these official records of public agencies or public officials that have unreasonably been kept secret.  Colin Powell is no longer a public official.  He's a private citizen.  His constitutional rights have been violated.  Are being violated.

Here's another problem.  What assurances do we have that the emails that have been released haven't been altered?  That they aren't bogus?  Do the newspapers and media outlets that publish them, and write about them, know?  Have they checked?  How can they check?  Do they even know?  Do they care?

These emails are published as reflecting the words of Colin Powell.  But those who publish them have scant if any first hand knowledge that they are genuine.

So maybe after they are published, either the sender or receiver will check their copies and discover that words, sentences, entire emails have been altered or just plain faked.  That's another news story.

Unless it's the weekend before the election.  Somebody (likely a Russian agency) steals and alters emails, deliver them to their favorite dupes who gleefully deliver them to a favorite friendly newspaper or site, and moments after they are first published, they are everywhere.

If they are fake, there will be no time to check.  And because our news media seems entirely gullible right now, it's likely they'll be just as gullible then.  They will publish them without any idea of whether they are faked or not.  Although they will know that they are stolen.

If stealing and dumping the Powell emails was a dry run for this, it has to be judged a howling success.  Just too juicy to resist.

So I'd say that the chances that such an email dump right before the election--with sensational if faked content--just went way up.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: All His Deplorables in One Basket?

We have about another week of the silly season part one in this campaign, until the media fixates on debate handicapping and evaluation for the next month or so.  So to get it started off right we've got Hillary pilloried for telling the truth about Trump supporters, plus giving the media vapors when she comes down with   pneumonia.

Granted that the Clinton campaign handled Sunday's situation badly.  As someone said, is there anything that the Clinton campaign can't screw up?  But while some in the media felt it "shook up" the race, others argued pretty convincingly that it won't matter much, assuming she returns to health this week.  Also that it's not nearly a big deal on its own.

It was however inspiration for some biting satirical comment, by Alexandra Petri at WPost, who spoofs the alt.right diagnosis, and reliably by Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker, who suggests that an unconscious Clinton is still more qualified than Trump.

Meanwhile the Donald, perhaps heeding his female campaign manager, has refrained from dancing on Hillary's prone body in glee at her illness.  But the days are over when JFK refrained from campaigning while opponent Nixon recovered from a bad bang on his knee.  Hillary cancelled her events but Trump was on the stump, it was a Trump stump.  He chose to highlight Clinton's Friday fundraiser comment that half of his supporters were in a basket of deplorables, of racists etc.  He disagreed, and called for Clinton to retract the statement or quit the race.  Apparently he didn't catch Hillary a few days before apologizing for saying "half."  Cause really, who knows how many?

 Meanwhile, out in his crowd, one of his non-deplorables was beating up a protester.  One of his non-deplorable supporters, the governor of Kentucky, was heard from the Family Research Council podium calling for killing if Hillary wins.

Then on CNN Trump's vp Pence refused to call KKK candidate David Duke "deplorable."  Others did a quick fact check and said, well yes she's right.  Dana Milbank in his column Yes, half of Trump supporters are racist, wrote: Hillary Clinton may have been unwise to say half of Donald Trump’s supporters are racists and other “deplorables.” But she wasn’t wrong. If anything, when it comes to Trump’s racist support, she might have low-balled the number." 

Greg Sargent notes that according to the latest WPost/ABC poll, a majority of Americans pretty much agree with Hillary's assessment.  And they do in other polls as well.  Jonathan Chiat sums up in his column, Yes, Most Donald Trump Supporters Are Deplorable and Irredeemable:

Following the classic definition of a gaffe as a politician telling the truth, Hillary Clinton’s comment about Donald Trump’s supporters (“just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it”) was the purest and most classic example. The national media has spent a year and a quarter documenting in exquisite, redundant detail the rabid, anti-intellectual nationalistic bigotry of Trump’s hard-core fanbase. But it has taken Hillary Clinton’s affirmation to transform this by-now-banal observation into a scandal.

Back in February, Wall Street Journal editorial columnist Bret Stephens mourned that it had once been a slander that “Republicans were all closet bigots,” but “Not anymore. The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism.” Stephens proceeded to argue that Trump’s carefully hedged disavowal of David Duke failed to dent his support — “If anything it has enhanced it.” Now that Clinton has made the similar point in milder terms, absolving a larger proportion of Trump’s supporters than Stephens did, and choosing the gentler metaphor of a basket rather than a sewer, The Wall Street Journal editorial page is scandalized that Clinton was caught “attributing hateful motives to tens of millions of Americans.” Americans! Hateful! In large numbers! How dare she!"

It seems hyping Clinton's "deplorable" comment is proving to be a tactical error.  As Josh Marshall remarked, "Mike Pence refusing to label David Duke as "deplorable" is a good example of why "Deplorable" was always far more of a double-edged sword than the Trump crew seemed to realize."

Whatever Trump does Tuesday, he'll no longer have the campaign to himself.  Hillary's ace surrogate is getting into it a little early--President Obama will speak on her behalf in Philadelphia.  With an approval rating now hitting 58% he is going to be her best advantage going down the stretch.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Indian Protest Heard

Native American tribes won a significant victory on Friday when the Obama administration halted construction of an oil pipeline on federal land that was opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who were supported in a series of protest demonstrations by a score of other tribal groups.

The ecological/climate crisis angle is part of the story, but so is the specific agency of Native peoples. The Native groups were protesting because the local tribe feared for the consequences to its water supply of an oil pipeline leak, and also opposed the pipeline's transit across a sacred site.  There's more background in this NPR report.

The action was announced jointly by the Justice Department, Interior and the U.S. Army who owned the land. They said in their statement: "This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects."

They said they would initiate government to government talks with the tribe.

In addition to the issue at hand, this statement may well set a precedent.  It essentially states the federal government's position as suggesting equal standing with Indian tribal governments.  It is a victory for Native American sovereignty and dignity.

For despite recent lip service, American Indian voices are still not heard, institutionally or individually as equals, with different but legitimate and ultimately valuable perspectives and points of view.  More specifically, Indian communities are not heard politically concerning issues that affect them.  In this particular case, when non-Native communities objected to their water supplies being endangered, the pipeline route was changed--to endanger Native communities.

Demo included participants from North Coast tribes.  Photo from Lost Coast Outpost.                                                                                                              
It seems everybody is an expert on Indians and what's good for them, except Indians.  I know enough to know I am not an expert, which seems to make me an anomaly.  Yet even I find the confident ignorance of many non-Natives shocking and embarrassing.

I had to laugh when recently (non-Native) researchers concluded that the earliest Americans could not have arrived by the land bridge from Asia, as (non-Native) science has insisted for decades was how it happened.  Native scholar Vine Deloria, Jr. was only the most outspoken critic of this assumption.  Although non-Native scholars like Levi-Strauss also thought it was wrong,  Deloria felt it was political--a way of dating Indian ancestors to shortly before European invasion--and he showed how this had been used against tribal claims.

Many Indian tribes have stories of much longer residence, and stories that suggest other ways--by sea for instance--of their ancestors arriving.  But such information is not often taken seriously by the predominantly non-Native scientists who tend to hold fast to theories about the ancestors of today's Indians even in the face of contrary evidence.

Guilt is probably part of the defensiveness on a wide range of other issues as well, for what Europeans did during the history they repress and suppress. They cling to cherished pioneer myths that substitute for owning historical horrors, such as California's enslavement and genocide of Native peoples.  

President Obama has met several times with leaders and residents of Native communities.  Now his administration has taken a potentially major step in hearing them.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Confederacy of Dunces (Updated)

Candidates Clinton and Trump appeared separately on what was billed as a foreign policy forum by NBC News on Wednesday evening.  According to most reviews, neither did all that well, but the most vilified participant was the questioner Matt Lauer.

Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign was just the headline to Jonathan Chiat's takedown.  Lauer spent inordinate proportion of the allotted time questioning the emails, and tried to rush Clinton through answers to complex foreign policy questions.  He let Trump get away with lying and spouting nonsense.  And wearily I say as usual, global heating didn't even come up.

To this Frank Rich (in Matt Lauer’s Gift to Donald Trump) adds that NBC's optics favored Trump over Clinton.  He also said it was a disaster with political implications.

In the New York Times James Poniewozik wrote that Lauer was "lost at sea."  Another Times piece summarizes the immediate, nearly universal deploring of Lauer's performance.  The WPost's Daily 202 does also.

The NBC event fits into the ongoing narrative of the double standard.  Charles M. Blow in the NYTimes: "This [Trump] is not an honest man. This is not a trustworthy man. The fact that people believe he’s honest is a result of a failed media that aims its sincerest critique at Clinton’s deficiencies with the truth, but applies an entertainment standard to Trump that corrects falsehoods but doesn’t castigate him for them."

As usual the followup stories can't keep up with all the outrageous, stupid and lying assertions that Trump made in his segment.  But they say, he looked good doing it.

In 2012 President Obama was ambushed in the first presidential debate by a Mitt Romney who confidently brandished brand new positions as if he'd always held them, and rattled a succession of assertions and attacks too fast and too many to keep up with.  Media scorekeepers gave him the debate.  Now knowing what to expect, President Obama came back strong and won the second and third debates.

Now Hillary Clinton knows what to expect even before the first debate, which may well be the only debate that many people watch.  There's always a risk in giving Trump equivalence by being on the same stage with him.  And his TV smarts and the confidence of the psychotic salesman are factors she has to deal with.  If the Clinton campaign is smart enough to win this election, they'll have to show it by learning from this dry run.

Otherwise it's all ammunition for the despair that is never far off.  Trump is the Homegrown Hitler, the Siberian Candidate (which he demonstrated again at the forum) and psychologically unfit for any high office, without the attention span to administer a city let alone this always imperiled nation. And in so many ways he is more dangerous than any terrorist. But there he is--the Republican nominee.

Trump is a moron, as is Matt Lauer, as is Gary Johnson --just look at their faces, just look into their eyes. Those are G.W. Bush eyes, and in comparison to them Bush is practically Einstein.  Meanwhile President Obama is dealing with intractable problems I can't even keep up with, and he talks about the trends in the climate crisis as "terrifying." 

This campaign is therefore terrifying, but that's been the case for every campaign I can recall since 1980.  Jonathan Chiat in a later post provides a long analysis of why Hillary Clinton is so easily vilified.  (And sexism is part of it.)  But as he writes, the mechanics of campaign coverage is part of the madness.  So it's not just the Clinton campaign that has to do better---it's certainly the media, especially the debate masters.

In other Homemade Hitler news, GOP vp candidate Pence joins Trump in calling Putin a stronger leader than Obama--which is simply to say that a de facto dictator is "stronger" and therefore better than an American President.  This as well as Trump's blustering foolishness about changing things (like military leadership) a constitutional President can't, is pretty explicit in asserting that he wants to be elected dictator.

In addition to dissing his own President in favor of the Russian dictator, Trump took an unprecedented step farther into the abyss by criticizing American foreign policy and other aspects of the American system on a Russian state-owned tv network controlled by Putin.

Eugene Robinson adds:

"Trump repeated his complaint that the United States should have “taken the oil” in Iraq, noting that “it used to be, to the victor belong the spoils.” Yes, that was true in the time of Genghis Khan. Today, under international law, plunder is a war crime — and not the only one Trump wants our military to commit. He has said in the past that our forces also should practice torture “worse than waterboarding” against suspected terrorists. He would ask our service members to dishonor the uniform and all it represents."

"Face the truth: Trump has to be the most dangerously ignorant major-party presidential candidate in history."

The Trump Corruption in Florida case continues to heat.  The Washington Post editorial board: IF DONALD TRUMP were treated like an ordinary presidential candidate, the speculations swirling around an illegal donation his charitable foundation gave to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) might dog his campaign from now until Election Day. The situation smells of influence-buying. Even if one takes Ms. Bondi’s explanations seriously, the facts already on the record are damning."

In Florida, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board has called for a federal investigation.